A Quick Guide to Strategic Initiatives

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Although the term “strategic initiative” might sound like inflated business jargon, it’s far from useless. A strategic initiative is a compass that guides businesses and targets future goals.

It speaks to the PMI’s A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK), which says all projects must be strategically aligned with the organization’s business strategy.

But a strategic initiative is more than one project, it encompasses many projects working together to serve the needs of the larger corporation. Strategic initiatives are large and complex, requiring a program manager to steer that big ship.

What Is a Strategic Initiative?

It’s difficult to definitively define what strategic initiatives are. Too many people have differing views. Is it a project or a program? For our purposes, let’s discuss what a strategic initiative is trying to do.

Strategic initiatives operate on three tiers. They have to address the company’s vision, speak to the benefits of stakeholders and work towards growing the company while aligning its various segments.

Another way to look at strategic initiatives is that it’s the instrument that helps deliver on the company’s vision. It takes the abstract and makes it practical by putting it into practice in the real world. In this definition, a strategic initiative is more than a project. It relates to a program or a number of interrelated projects.

Why Make a Strategic Initiative?

Organizations will want to develop strategic initiatives because it gives them a way to achieve specific objectives. It can also be a means to close the gap between the target of a program and its current performance.

Related: How Gap Analysis Can Improve Your Project Management

Strategic initiatives are also helpful for executives who want to have a framework by which they can review all their projects in the program, define various impacts on the program and then focus on only those projects that can deliver immediate and measurable changes.

It’s all about improving the way an organization operates. Strategic initiatives are not about remaining complacent: they seek to get the greatest return out of the various projects in your portfolio.

Differences Between an Initiative, Goal, Objective & Vision

Strategic initiatives can be confused with other strategies. For example, a strategic initiative is not a strategic goal.

Strategic Goals

A strategic goal is part of strategic planning. A strategic goal is set by the company to identify what they want to accomplish in a business strategy. It is a more general endpoint that speaks to the company’s needs.

Strategic Objectives

Strategic initiatives differ from strategic objectives in that the latter is like a strategic goal, only much more specific. They, too, are set on the long term, but they take the broader vision and break it down into specific plans and projects.

Objectives are benchmarks that are designed to be measurable and realistic. They take the mission statement of the company and translate it into more practical terms.

Strategic Vision

A strategic vision might seem closest to a strategic initiative, but there are differences between these two terms as well. The strategic vision is more an overview of where the company wants to be over the next number of years. It supports the strategy, but presents an ideal, though achievable outcome.

The major difference between these terms and strategic initiatives is that a strategic initiative includes a scope statement, budget and even a start and end date.

How to Make a Strategic Initiative

There are five steps to a well-made strategic initiative.

Step 1: Set a Goal

Before you get started, you have to know what it is you’re starting. There are likely dozens of fronts on which you can wage your strategic initiative. But the more things you try to improve, the less likely you’ll be improving any of them.

Therefore, take the time to think about what you have the capacity to confront and the resources to execute over the long-term. Boil your list of strategic initiatives down to just one that will have the most positive impact on the program or business.

Step 2: Set Objectives

As noted, objectives are specific, measurable and realistic long-term goals. This is the time to set them in the strategic initiative process. Think of them as milestones that mark the end of one phase and the start of a new one.

Step 3: Set the Strategy

This is the part when you take your objectives and figure out how you’re going to achieve them. It could be one or many ventures, such as monitoring program metrics to see where greater efficiencies can be created or training your team or sales force to produce a better product or service and get that out to a larger customer base.

Step 4: Set Up a Plan

Plans are the same, even when planning a strategic initiative. You want to start with a larger deliverable, which is your objective, and then break it down into smaller and smaller tasks, which are then given a duration and placed on a schedule.

Gantt chart screenshot in ProjectManager.com
Make a detailed plan in minutes with ProjectManager.com’s Gantt chart—Learn More

This plan should be transparent in that it’s visible for your entire project team, so everyone is working in congress. They need to know what their project roles and responsibilities are for the success of the strategic initiative.

Step 5: Execute the Plan

Once you have the strategy and the plan, you have to get the team on board. With their buy-in the whole thing becomes a reality. They are accountable for executing the plan. Program managers will give them direction, monitor their progress and regularly meet with them to get feedback and make sure the plan is on track.

Strategic Initiatives and ProjectManager.com

Even if strategic initiatives are more than just a project, managing them is like a project. ProjectManager.com is software that organizes everything in your project and has the tools managers and their teams need to see a strategic initiative to a successful conclusion.

Roll Out Implementation Plans

You’ve pinpointed the goals and objectives of your strategic initiative and have a list of tasks to implement it. Import that to ProjectManager.com and it opens as a new project.

Everyone in the project team has different ways to work and ProjectManager.com knows that. It’s multiple project views have benefits and will appeal to different members on the team. Team members can manage their work with task lists, kanban boards, Gantt charts or calendars.

Program managers can add start and end dates to each task, link dependencies and then assign team members to those tasks. Team members can collaborate and work better together. They can comment, tag other project members, who are notified by email and can then collaborate on the task.

Task management screenshot in ProjectManager.com
With ProjectManager.com, you can manage work online with your team.

Resolve Bottlenecks and Track Issues

Bottlenecks will ruin even the best laid strategic plans. ProjectManager.com avoids those delays with its kanban board view, which keeps teams focused on one task at a time, only delivering new tasks when there is the capacity and resources available. Also, program managers get transparency into the team’s progress.

There are going to be other issues that arise, and the sooner they are identified, the sooner they can be resolved. ProjectManager.com helps you find them with its real-time dashboard for a bird’s eye view.

project dashboard for real-time tracking
Track projects and spot issues in real time with our dashboards

ProjectManager.com is all you need to realize your strategic initiative. The cloud-based project management software helps program managers plan, monitor and report on the strategic initiative, while giving teams the collaborative platform they need to better execute it. Try ProjectManager.com today with this free 30-day trial.

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